Top Cat: Wright wins 413th game as No. 4 Nova tops Hoyas
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jay Wright found another fashionable tie at Villanova.
The GQ coach with a national title on his finely tailored resume hit another milestone that suits him on the sideline: Wright moved into a tie atop Villanova’s career wins list with 413 in the fourth-ranked Wildcats’ 97-73 victory over Georgetown on Saturday night.
Wright improved to 413-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He matched Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961. Wright can top Severance with a win in the Big East Tournament.
“The real thrill and the pride comes with just being the coach at Villanova,” Wright said. “That’s enough for me.”
The Wildcats head to Madison Square Garden as the No. 2 seed after their run of four straight regular-season conference titles was ended by Xavier.
There’s little worry on the Main Line that Villanova can’t make a deep run in the postseason. The Wildcats (27-4, 14-4) beat Xavier twice this season and will surely be a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But losing their grip on the Big East title still stung the Wildcats.
“You definitely would love to win a championship. This is the time you look at it,” Wright said. “I purposely didn’t look at that (Xavier) game today. You would definitely rather win the championship. So you take from that, what did you learn?”
They learned how to punish the Hoyas wire-to-wire.
They used the Hoyas (15-14, 5-13) as little more than a tune-up in the finale and took a 15-point lead in the first half that was never seriously challenged. Mikal Bridges scored 24 points and Jalen Brunson solidified his player of the year candidacy with 16 points and seven assists.
Brunson and Bridges, two underclassmen likely playing their final home game, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,523.
Yes, the Wildcats had been upset at the Wells Fargo Center this season by St. John’s, a team that was winless in the Big East, but the outcome seemed a mere formality against Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas.
The Hoyas missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half. Jesse Govan scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and he went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.
“They make you pay for every mistake that you make,” Ewing said.
The second half served as a mere countdown toward Wright’s ascension to a share of the top of the record book.
Wright led the Wildcats, who won the 1985 national title under his mentor Rollie Massimino, to their greatest run of success in program history. They’ve won at least 32 games each of the previous three seasons and he’s led them to the NCAAs all but one year (2012) since 2005.
Wright, a Churchville, Pennsylvania native, played college basketball at Bucknell and started as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel. He spent five seasons at Villanova as Massimino’s assistant, then followed him to UNLV for another two years before taking the head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994.
Hired in 2001 to replace Steve Lappas, Wright took the Wildcats to the top of every meaningful stat — including an eight-week stint this year at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.
“Coach wants us to be the best we can be,” Bridges said.
Georgetown: The Hoyas will have to win the Big East to earn an NCAA bid. They’ve lost four straight. ... The Hoyas played without F Marcus Derrickson (15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) because of an injured right ankle.
Villanova: The Wildcats have to escape New York without any significant injuries to key players to have a shot at starting March Madness as one of the favorites to win it all. ... The Wildcats went 11-1 this year at the Wells Fargo Center, their one-year home while the on-campus Pavilion is renovated. “I miss the Pavilion, I’ll be honest,” Brunson said. ... Made all 13 free throws.
Ewing recalled the days when Brunson tagged along with dad Rick Brunson in the New York Knicks locker room in the late 1990s. Ewing’s son used to babysit Brunson.
“He was about 4 or 5 and he never left my locker,” Ewing said. “I wish back then I knew I’d be coaching. I’d have started recruiting him from back then.”
Georgetown: Plays St. John’s at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big East Tournament.
Villanova: The Wildcats play the winner of the No. 7-10 game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at MSG.